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Shakespeare uses language to dramatically create an impact on the audience. He does this through the use of lexis in order to create a tone for that scene as well as foreshadowing the mood for the remainder of the play. Again, Shakespeare varies the sentence length and the amount of speech each character has based on their feelings within this scene. Finally, the use of flattery and religious lexis helps to instil opinions of Claudius on the audience.
The use of dark and gloomy lexis when Hamlet speaks dramatically creates an image of the scene in the minds of the audience. Using phrases such as “inky cloak” and “solemn black” creates the idea of sadness as the use of colours help to depict a clear image, having a dramatic impact on the audience as this could alter their opinions of the characters and Gertrude’s marriage. Not only does this foreshadow the tone for the rest of the play but the dark language also introduces the idea of secrecy and evil within the court, as the dark can hide secrets.
The strong language would dramatically impact the audience to possibly make them agree with Hamlet to criticise the Queen for not mourning her late husband for longer. The asyndetic listing of three “forms, moods, shapes of grief” emphasise Hamlet’s passionate feelings as he is noting all his outward expressions of grief don’t compare to how he is feeling internally. The use of listing highlights these feelings as it is a repeated description of this. Again, Claudius recognises that the “clouds still hang” on him. By metaphorically linking Hamlet’s feelings to weather this again stresses his extreme sadness, whilst showing that his mourning is almost uncontrollable; similar to weather. This could also foreshadow the destructive behaviour that will follow as a result, similar to the aftermath of stormy weather. Again this dramatically impacts the audience as it creates a darkened mood within the space they are watching and in their own minds, due to the imagery of bad, gloomy weather.
Shakespeare uses flattery in order to patronise Hamlet and therefore allowing the audience to form an opinion of Claudius. In response to Hamlet’s sadness Claudius replies “tis sweet and commendable in your nature”. By juxta-positioning the flattering words with Hamlet’s mourning, this comes across to be very insensitive and patronising as Claudius clearly lacks empathy for Hamlet. This would have an impact on the audience as it allows them to start forming opinions of Claudius. The flattery is reiterated when Claudius calls Hamlet his “son”, however, this emphasises the incestuous marriage between Gertrude and the King and so the word has double connotations with it. The religious lexis throughout this passage also highlights Claudius’ position in the social hierarchy, again allowing the audience to form their own opinions of the King. “Tis a fault to heaven” emphasises this as Claudius points out Hamlet is insulting the Divine Order, linking to the Divine right of Kings that would’ve been very meaningful during the Jacobean era. This places Hamlet as being inferior to Claudius, dramatically impacting the audience as this hints Claudius is very passionate about being King and believes in this theory and therefore would do anything to keep his title, i.e. kill his son.
The varying sentence length helps to show the social positioning of the characters on stage at this time. By Claudius having the longest speech of all shows his power over Hamlet and Gertrude. His wife follows by replying to his lengthy speech with only two lines, showing she has very little power over the decisions made as well as a lack of control over her husband and son. Similarly, the first time Hamlet speaks after Claudius’ speech consists of only one line in which he state he “will obey”. Although he is replying to his mother, this still shows his lack of power at this early stage of the play as well as his lack of respect for his new father due to not directly replying to him. This has a dramatic effect as it foreshadows his feelings towards the new King and consequentially his actions.
Overall we see within this passage that Shakespeare varies the sentence length and uses religious lexis in order to show the positioning within the social hierarchy of the character within the scene. The audience are also shown the characters’ true mind-set through the use of flattery and lexical choices surrounding sadness and darkness; setting up the rest of the play and the consequences that follows a result of the underlying hatred we see here.
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